The rise of the “supernanny”
Figures show parents are wanting increasingly more experienced and highly qualified nannies to look after their children. By Claire Duffin.2012
For generations, parents just wanted a nanny who would love their children. Now they expect much more: new research has found that four fifths of families require a nanny with “additional skills” including cooking and the ability to play or teach a musical instrument.
They are prepared to pay up to £65,000 a year for graduates who can speak foreign languages, ski, horse ride and coach children in academic subjects ahead of school entry exams.
The survey of 1,244 employers of nannies found some parents even wanted skills in dance and karate.
Current vacancies for nannies advertised through Nannies of St James, which recruits for high-profile clients in London, include ones for people who can drive, swim but also have a second language.
One family is looking for a nanny who has “sea legs” for when the family is on their yacht, while others want nannies able to travel to the Caribbean, New York, Abu Dhabi, South Africa and extensively in Europe.
Agencies have put the change down to parents who feel their children are under pressure from increased competition for places at high-performing schools, as well as competition for jobs among nannies.
Rosemary Newton, partner at Nannies of St James, said: “For the last three to five years, people have been requesting additional skills, particularly languages. Education is now a priority.
“It’s becoming more like America, with parents wanting their children coached for prep school and entrance exams and then wanting nannies to help academically with homework. Gone are the days of Mary Poppins. It’s become more about the professional, educated, well-rounded graduate.”
Successful candidates can reap the rewards of being well-qualified, and are often provided with a car and high-quality accommodation on top of a competitive salary.
The annual research by Nannytax, which offers nanny payroll service for families, found average wages have not increased significantly over the last three years, reflecting the wider economy.
The average wage for live-in nannies in London is now £26,870 a year, up four per cent in a year, with daily nannies getting around £34,500, up one per cent – but agencies say top candidates can command up to £65,000.
Amber Jones, director of Tigerlily Recruitment said the increase in wages reflected a rise in standards.
“If I interview a prospective nanny who can horse ride, ski and swim, I know it is somebody I can place,” she said.
“Wages have increased meaning that being a nanny can now be a career choice, whereas before it was more of a low level, low paid domestic role.”
Last year, Gwyneth Paltrow, the actress, advertised for a “supernanny” for her two children, Apple and Moses. The successful candidate needed to posses a classical education, be fluent in at least three languages, preferably including Mandarin or Japanese, be able to play two instruments, be passionate about sailing and tennis, and enjoy art history or martial arts.
One of the “supernannies”, Francesca Wright, 27, who works for families in West Sussex and Surrey, has been a nanny for six years after completing a degree in English literature and studying childcare.
“Having a degree in English means I can help with their spelling and grammar,” she said.
“A lot of people, if they ask you what you do and you say nanny they think babysitter. But all the families I have worked for see it as a career and don’t see you as a second-class citizen.”
The Nannytax survey also found that 68 per cent of families would consider a male nanny, or “manny” but that only two per cent, 23 of those surveyed, have ever actually employed one.
Annie Merrylees, founder and director of My Big Buddy – London’s first registered “manny” agency, specialising in male nannies, said they were popular with single mothers, families with busy fathers, families with only children and ones with disabled children or ones with attention-deficient disorders. She has more than 300 “mannies” in full-time employment.
“Most commonly it’s simply families with boys who want someone well-educated who can encourage and assist their children to complete their homework followed by the reward of some active and fun entertainment,” she said.